September opening date announced for revamped Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh as final cost revealed

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The new galleries at the Scottish National Gallery will open on September 30, with the final costs of the project confirmed as £38.62 million

An opening date for Scotland’s revamped flagship arts gallery has been announced for after next month’s Edinburgh festivals as it was revealed the final cost of the project would be nearly £40 million – more than double the initial price tag.

New “world-class” exhibition spaces in the Scottish National Gallery complex are set to open on September 30.

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The opening will take place five years’ later than originally planned. The date was announced after The Scotsman last month revealed the launch had been delayed further until after Edinburgh's summer festivals season, after a mooted opening in late last year had to be abandoned.

A graphic design of the completed exterior of the National Galleries. Picture: Cadpeople, Hoskins Architects and MetaphorA graphic design of the completed exterior of the National Galleries. Picture: Cadpeople, Hoskins Architects and Metaphor
A graphic design of the completed exterior of the National Galleries. Picture: Cadpeople, Hoskins Architects and Metaphor

Gallery bosses have confirmed the total cost of the project has come to £38.62m.

Mystery had long surrounded the final bill for the Scottish Government-backed project, with the project originally expected to cost £16.8m.

The revamped exhibition spaces have been in development since 2012, with Gareth Hoskins Architects appointed to take on the project in 2014.

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The revamp is aimed at significantly increasing space devoted to Scottish artists like Phoebe Anna Traquair, William McTaggart, Anne Redpath, Sir Henry Raeburn and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Allan Ramsay, Gavin Hamilton and Sir David Wilkie.

Gallery bosses had been forced to scale back the size of the expansion due to ballooning costs. The discovery of unexpected defects and undocumented obstructions within part of the construction site, the complex nature of the work and the impact of the Covid pandemic were all blamed for the late running of the project.

In announcing the opening date, Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “This project has been driven by an ambition to transform the experience of visiting the National and to show the extraordinary collections of Scottish art with pride in beautiful, new, light-filled spaces.

"We believe that we have created a National Gallery that is more open, engaging and inviting than ever before. Whether immersing themselves in the highly Romantic paintings of the Scottish Highlands, taking part in a family day or just enjoying the views, all are welcome to come and discover.”

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The new exhibition spaces will be accessed from the adjoining East Princes Street Gardens. The physical display space will be more than doubled, with ten displays in the new galleries that will be home to more than 130 works of art. New trails have been added, with three areas specifically designed to display drawings and other fragile artworks that will regularly change throughout the year.

Culture minister Christina McKelvie lauded the National as holding “the world’s finest collection of Scottish art”.

"We have supported this redevelopment project from the start with a significant contribution of £15.25m and it’s wonderful to see this will open soon so the public can enjoy these new galleries,” she said.

Eilish McGuinness, chief executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the National had been “a source of inspiration and learning for over 150 years and holds a special place in the hearts of the Scottish people, and throughout the UK”.

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She said: “It’s exciting news that its now set to open its doors, inspiring generations to come, by offering a new perspective, doubling the gallery’s exhibition space, and improving access to its renowned collection of Scottish art.”

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